In New York City, the famous walk among us. You can find them everywhere -- shooting on movie sets around the city, shopping in SoHo, and of course, eating. Celebrities like Robert De Niro, Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake and Susan Sarandon love investing their hard-earned money in new restaurants, and where you find one celebrity, others often flock. Here are 7 of our Manhattan picks for the best places to eat, drink and people-watch.
Jay-Z, REM’s Michael Stipe, and Fatboy Slim are all investors of this West Village restaurant, credited with starting the gastropub trend. The cozy, busy eatery, which serves British- and Italian-style food with local ingredients, is best known for its Roquefort cheese-smothered burger. Chef April Bloomfield has become a celebrity in her own right and just launched her first memoir cookbook. While the restaurant is big on privacy, the ultra-exclusive seating on the third floor allows you to rub shoulders with frequent visitors like Jude Law, Luke Wilson, David Schwimmer and Mario Batali. Just don’t try for special requests -- only Lou Reed is allowed to have onion on his burger, and that’s only because a server once accidently made an allowance.
Actor Zach Braff is an investor of this third branch of the seafood-heavy Mermaid Inn. Braff became involved because he went to high school with the original chef, Laurence Edelman. While Edelman has since left, Braff is still a huge advocate of the bright, whitewash-walled venue, stopping by several times a week. With 16 kinds of oysters, Mermaid Oyster Bar is a unique place for an East Coast-versus-West Coast oyster education, especially with the $1 price tag during happy hour. Round out the meal with a delicious lobster roll and some local tap beers, and you have a lovely meal.
Located on a West Village side street, Quentin Tarantino is a co-owner and frequent visitor of this authentic Korean BBQ restaurant. With its deep-red walls, dark tables and sparse Asian-inspired décor, it feels like a fight scene from Kill Bill will break out at any moment. The restaurant is noted for its daeji galbi, a spicy garlic pork rib. Meals are generally served family style but there are also tasting menus. Perhaps celebrities like Rosie Perez and designer Nicole Miller come because it has a home-style feel; the executive chef is one of the owner’s mothers.
Hugh Jackman’s Tribeca Laughing Man Coffee and Tea has a different goal -- self-sustainability. Jackman reportedly came up with the idea for the venue after meeting a coffee farmer named Dukale while visiting Ethiopia with the relief organization World Vision. The tiny café houses all its single-origin beans sustainably grown in places like Ethiopia, Peru, Guatemala and Papua New Guinea on simple wooden shelves. Jackman plans to open other locations and all the money goes to charity. The signature drink (and Jackman’s personal favorite) is the “flat white,” which is like a latte but with less milk.
It seems to be Susan Sarandon’s goal to bring ping-pong to the masses, so it’s no surprise that she is one of the investors of this Murray Hill establishment in Midtown Manhattan, which also has branches in Toronto and Milwaukee. SPiN is no small venue: It has 17 ping-pong courts, a bar, a restaurant with sliders and shared plates, and a pro shop. If you arrive by the 23rd Street 6 Train subway, you can actually watch people playing on the other side of the glass from inside the station. Kim Kardashian has been seen here as well as comedian Judah Friedlander, also a very avid player. If you really want to get your celebrity fill, attend one of SPiN New York’s tournaments for charity, where David Schwimmer, writer Dave Eggers, Mike Myers, and Jake Gyllenhaal have all competed for bragging rights.
Robert De Niro has made quite a name for himself in the restaurant business. In addition to this lovely Tribeca Italian bistro with well-respected chef Andrew Carmellini, he is also an owner of Nobu and Tribeca Grill with odd bedfellows Sean Penn, Bill Murray and Russell Simmons. Locanda Verde, with its exposed brick wall and leather-studded seats, has mouthwatering pastries, pastas, and a sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey that melts in your mouth. Gwyneth Paltrow, Bradley Cooper and Mary-Kate Olsen are also fans of the restaurant.
Justin Timberlake is co-owner of this boisterous BBQ Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, whose name is a hat tip to his Memphis upbringing. Known for its fried pickles and baby back ribs, this home-style restaurant has inspired celebrities to let their hair down here. New York Yankee Derek Jeter brought actress Minka Kelly here to celebrate his 3,000th hit. Channing Tatum, while celebrating his birthday, reenacted the iconic Dirty Dancing lift with his wife on the dance floor before doing some break dancing of his own. Timberlake is also an investor at Destino, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side.